Patty Judge, in new tv ads: "Washington changed Chuck"

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Patty Judge took the fight to 36-year Senator Chuck Grassley in her campaign’s first two general election television commercials, launched on Tuesday. Both 30-second spots assert that Grassley has "changed" during his long tenure in Washington. One spot features Judge delivering the message alongside a cardboard cutout of the incumbent. A string of "ordinary Iowans" question the cardboard Grassley during the other ad. Scroll down for videos and transcripts.

Grassley hasn’t run any commercials since the two ads his campaign aired before the June primary, which Bleeding Heartland analyzed here and here. I’m surprised he didn’t prepare a spot to run during the Rio Olympics, after reporting more than $1.2 million in contributions during the second quarter and nearly $6 million cash on hand as of June 30. Judge’s campaign raised $347,707 during the second quarter and had only $228,292 cash on hand at the end of June.

Three of the four Iowa polls released this month showed Grassley’s support barely above 50 percent; Judge was running 9 or 10 points behind. The most recent survey, conducted by CBS/YouGov, found Grassley leading Judge by only 45 percent to 38 percent. An incumbent polling below 50 percent traditionally signals an opening for the challenger.

But contrary to KCRG’s misleading headline and write-up, a 45-38 lead is not a "statistical tie." The margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent in CBS/YouGov’s poll means that assuming professional sampling methods, there’s a 95 percent chance that Grassley’s support is between 41 and 49 percent, and that Judge’s support is between 34 and 42 percent. In other words, Grassley is extremely likely to be ahead if CBS/YouGov’s respondents are representative of the likely voter universe. He’s just not dominating the race by the kind of margins he’s enjoyed over previous Democratic opponents.

Over the weekend, the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble reviewed data from earlier re-election campaigns pointing to Grassley’s strong performance among no-party voters, as well as his "crossover appeal" for thousands of Iowa Democrats.

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News websites have too few moderators, not too many anonymous commenters

This weekend the Quad-City Times shut off comments on its website. Executive editor Autumn Phillips had been "debating this for months" and discussed the change with some longtime readers as well as with the newspaper’s staff. The last straw was a stream of racist or otherwise offensive off-topic comments below a story about man who had died after being attacked in an area public park.

I’ve been watching this for years at newspapers across the country. It’s not unique to the Quad-City Times, though the prejudices vary by region. Every once in a while, I see a lively, on-topic debate. In a sea of ridiculousness, hate speech and online bullying, I occasionally read thoughtful perspectives I hadn’t considered. Unfortunately, that isn’t the norm and it’s been a very long time since I believed in the dream media companies once had about providing a town square for the community to meet and use our journalism as a launching pad to connect, debate and bring about change. […]

Today, if you want to comment on an article, you won’t be able to post anonymously on our website. You’ll need to use one of the other forums we provide. […]

It takes courage to share an opinion when your name is attached. Knowing that, it’s my hope that disabling comments on will contribute to a civil equilibrium, a return to thoughtful discourse and elevate the discussion around the important issues we are facing in the Quad-Cities and as a nation.

I support Phillips’ decision and wholeheartedly agree that for the most part, newspaper comments sections are a "sea of ridiculousness, hate speech and online bullying."

But the key problem isn’t anonymous commenters. It’s the failure to moderate.

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A journalist's duty: Getting to the truth through verification not bias

Longtime investigative reporter Tom Witosky reflects on "the essence of good journalism" and the "crisis of conscience" recent trends have caused in the media sector. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Two Iowa State students approached me after a campus news conference in 2003 during which Gregory Geoffrey, then the school’s president, explained why he fired Larry Eustachy, who was the school’s men’s basketball coach.

“You’re a Hawkeye aren’t you?” one of them asked as if to be let in on a big secret.

After all, the students suggested, that would be the only reason why someone would write a story and publish pictures of Eustachy drinking and partying with college students into the early morning hours while on road trips.

It wasn’t the first time that question or its corollary – “You’re a Cyclone aren’t you?”- had been asked. During my 25 years of investigative sports reporting for the Des Moines Register, many stories incurred the wrath of Iowa and Iowa State fans. This time my reporting on Eustachy’s on-the-road shenanigans had cost him his job.

The memory of that conversation 13 years ago remains a vivid one. It remains high in my recollections because it’s the same accusation that’s heard daily about media bias or lack of objectivity in covering the 2016 presidential campaign.

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Don't expect hard-hitting journalism in the "new and improved" Cityview

After 25 years of weekly publication, central Iowa’s self-styled alternative paper Cityview is now a monthly targeting "higher-income demographics," publisher Shane Goodman explained in the final weekly edition.

We know that readers want even more of our alternative style of reporting, but we also recognize that advertisers’ needs are changing. They want glossy paper stock. They want to reach higher-income demographics. They want digital editions and social media connections. And they don’t see the need to advertise on a weekly basis like they once did. With advertising as our sole source of revenue, we need to do all we can to accommodate these needs, or we won’t survive the next 25 years. As a result, this is our last weekly issue of Cityview, and you will see a new and improved monthly edition on the stands and online starting Aug. 11. It will continue to have much of the content you have come to know and love, but it will also have a number of new features and will be printed on glossy and high-bright stock paper, in a larger format, with more pages — in both print and digital formats.

I’ll be surprised to see any investigative journalism in the "new and improved" Cityview, based on the "2016 media kit" the publication is shopping around to advertisers. Gavin Aronsen posted that document in his excellent analysis of the weekly’s "sad decline." I’ve enclosed some excerpts below, but do click through to read the whole Iowa Informer piece. Aronsen flagged some questionable articles and columns, as well as a sexist dark side to what Goodman approvingly called a "testosterone-driven approach" to news coverage. The Iowa Informer post did not mention what I consider one of Cityview’s lowest points: the editors’ disgraceful slut-shaming of former Des Moines Public Schools superintendent Nancy Sebring. Bleeding Heartland discussed that episode here.

In other central Iowa media news, KCCI-TV reporters Emmy Victor and Vanessa Peng are leaving for jobs in other states. Victor told the Des Moines Register this week that the racism she sometimes encountered while working in Iowa "did not help my decision to stay." That should be embarrassing (but not surprising) for white Iowans. As a place to live, our state has many wonderful attributes, but we won’t make any nationwide top-10 lists for tolerance of diversity. On the contrary: Iowa has been named one of the "worst states for Black people," and two Iowa metro areas made a list of ten cities across the country with "the worst racial inequality."

Earlier this summer, Victor gained national attention after being charged at by a woman screaming racial abuse while on location. The reporter handled herself well during what must have been a scary event. I hope she never experiences anything like it again. I did not agree with KCCI’s decision to make a big news story out of a distraught mother’s meltdown, though. Like Damon Young, I don’t mean to excuse the woman’s behavior, but she had just watched her son get fatally shot by police near where the KCCI crew set up. Victor has not responded to my questions about whether she or KCCI pressed assault charges over that incident.

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The Des Moines Register is looking for a new executive editor

The Des Moines Register announced today that executive editor Amalie Nash will soon start a new job supervising the work of "about 50" Gannett news organizations "in the Midwest and the west side of the country."

Nash, who has served as the Register’s executive editor since January 2014, has focused heavily on watchdog reporting and innovation.

She advocated for changes to Iowa’s public records laws and spearheaded a push for access to public records, including two lawsuits seeking records in high-profile cases. She also was one of the editors of the award-winning project “Harvest of Change,” the first virtual reality news project in the country to be designed for the Oculus Rift platform.

Nash oversaw the Register’s award-winning coverage of the 2016 Iowa caucuses, which broke digital traffic records and saw the organization launch new initiatives such as public forums and mock caucuses.

I enclose below background on those open records lawsuits.

Nash will be in charge of the search for her successor, while the newspaper’s news director Carol Hunter "will serve as interim editor until Nash’s replacement is hired." I’ll update this post with the job listing when one becomes available.

My probably impossible dream is that the new executive editor will make the Register’s website more user-friendly, with as few auto-play videos as possible. Those videos are usually a waste of time for reporters and readers, especially when there is no extra content, just a writer summarizing an article out loud. Most online news consumers would rather read a story.

UPDATE: Added below comments from Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, for which Nash has served as first vice president.

SECOND UPDATE: Added the job description Gannett posted on August 9.

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The Cady Court: Same As It Ever Was?

First-person accounts of politically-oriented events are always welcome here. Thanks to IowaBadger for this perspective. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Chief Justice Mark Cady’s leadership of the Iowa Supreme Court has been bookended by two major cases. First came his unanimous majority opinion in the Varnum v. Brien decision recognizing marriage equality under the Iowa Constitution, resulting in the defeat of then Chief Justice Marsha Ternus (and two other justices) in the 2010 retention election, and Cady’s elevation to Chief Justice. Then, several weeks ago, was his 4-3 majority opinion in Griffin v. Pate, deciding that the Iowa Constitution’s prohibition against voting by anyone who has committed an "infamous crime" bars anyone with a felony conviction from voting, absent a restoration of voting rights from the governor.

Yesterday, the Des Moines Register held an event entitled "The Cady Court At Five," which gave five panelists the opportunity to talk about both cases, and how the court has gotten from one to the other. Anyone hoping for post July 4th fireworks would have been disappointed, and anyone hoping for definitive answers will have to heed desmoinesdem’s post from yesterday recognizing that we will only understand Justice Cady’s rationale for his vote in Griffin and its seeming inconsistency with his previous opinion in Chiodo v. Panel when he’s interviewed about it years down the road. But for those of us who follow the Iowa Supreme Court closely, we did gain some insight into the Chief Justice’s thinking and what that might mean for future decisions.

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